Justin Roth over on the Stonemind Blog has written a thoughtful piece on being a professional climber.
Interesting stuff: http://thestonemind.com/2013/11/12/the-professionals/
There aren’t many professional climbers out there, and there are even less that are making a real living. A real salary is even harder to come by over here in Europe than it is over in the USA, and it does seem that there are much larger marketing budgets for athletes in the States. But are things changing for professional climbers?
Semi professional climber James McHaffie did mention to me the other week that he hasn’t seen budgets like we are seeing now for climbers since the late 90’s – which is surely a good thing. But we are still not talking about real salaries, we are talking about a few thousand pounds. Still a very useful cash boost for those who want to take time off from work to pursue climbing to a higher level, but not enough to put money away in a retirement plan.
In the more expensive areas of climbing, such as expedition climbing and alpinism, I have noticed that those who excel are those who have managed to gain a huge amount of experience. And how have they funded this experience? Usually through being wealthy.
Perhaps with more money available for ‘professional’ climbers, we may see more of a shift in the social backgrounds of those at the higher end of mountaineering, as we have already seen in rock climbing post war.
Speaking now of staying closer to home, it doesn’t cost a fortune to go cragging on the gritstone, but with brands looking for global appeal, and pushing their marketing via the of course global ‘internet’, will local climbing ever really be exciting enough again to satisfy a cash sponsor? Will hard local cragging be left to the driven and passionate amateurs, whilst the professionals blow their travel budgets on trips to exotic photo destinations?
When I watched Ben Moon and Jerry Moffat go on a road trip to Fontainebleau in the now iconic film The Real Thing, going all the way to France seemed like an exotic luxury that I would never afford to do. These days my Facebook feed is swamped with photos of friends in far flung places.
Have I changed? Undoubtedly! Has climbing also changed? Also undoubtedly!
On a lighter note: my favourite professional climber is Hazel ‘The Pro’ Findlay. I have a fun video of Hazel and I climbing a new route in the Alps – it will be going up on the blog when I have resolved some IT issues.
Until then here is some of the jibber-jabber I have edited out from the real video! 🙂